The Tao of Carrying Groceries

...or, "How a Simple Chore is Helping Me Become a Better Person"

If you’re like me, rather than dividing the collective load into smaller, more manageable trips, you would rather heave eight bags of groceries from the car into the house in one go. Sling one bag over each shoulder, two bags in the crook of each elbow, clutching the last two in one hand as you fumble your keys in the other and pray you don’t smash the more delicate produce.

I exhibit this same inability to take baby steps in other areas of my life as well. If I wish to cultivate a skill, I pour myself into practice so that I can master it as quickly as possible. If I need to prepare a dish for a party or gathering, I choose the most complicated recipe to try. When confronted with a new idea or concept, I obsessively spin it around my consciousness until I have seen it from all sides. All of this as quickly as possible, of course.

However, the area where this “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude appears most notably is in the context of my own personal growth. Since I work in the field of personal development, energy healing and Spiritual mentorship, I love nerding out over the minutiae of human consciousness, and I am my own favorite subject. Plumbing the depths of my own psychology, emotional intelligence and mindfulness absolutely fascinates me. Why do I make certain choices in my words and behavior? Why do I respond to triggers in a certain way? What, truly, constitutes free will? How am I living as a sovereign being, as opposed to demonstrating the cumulative effects of decades of social conditioning? You know, the easy questions.

Naturally, when a challenge arises in the area of “how can Michelle be a better person,” I throw myself into it with the same determined vigor as I would hauling my eight shopping bags into the house, regardless of whether or not this is actually the best approach.

I discover some hidden emotional wounding from a random event in my past? Unpack all that baggage and sort it out immediately! A challenge arises in my relationship? Jump in and fix it right away! Getting together with my family brings up old dynamics and pushes everyone’s buttons? Let’s all sit down right now and create space to share until everyone feels heard and gets along again!

Based on my extensive self-analysis, the best hypothesis I can offer as to why I must accomplish things as quickly and efficiently as possible comes from a variety of personality traits that somehow add up to me staggering under the burden of a carload of groceries, when any sane person would take two trips. The first of these traits is sheer optimism in my ability to accomplish the task at hand. “Only eight bags of groceries? Of course I can manage that!” cries my inner decision-maker with complete confidence. The second trait is that I love being right. Once the eight bags of groceries are slung around my body, there’s no way I would ever admit to picking up more than I could handle. Reevaluating, taking some off and trying again would mean that I was wrong in the first place. The third trait is the hardest for me to admit, but I am secretly very competitive. This trait has softened over the years, so I am no longer ubiquitously competitive, but if there is a skill that I feel that I SHOULD be good at, I hate being anything less than rock-star caliber. In terms of my own personal development, my competitiveness is of epic proportions. I am well aware of the irony there.

One of the worst parts of my “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude is my own ridiculous hypocrisy. I tell my clients without hesitation to take baby steps as they work through personal challenges. “Be gentle on yourself as you move through your process,” I assure them. “Everything happens in its own space and time. Practice patience and presence, and give yourself permission to not get it perfectly the first time.”


I have finally decided, after years of not following my own advice, to give myself some credit as an expert in my field and treat myself like a client. Don’t I also deserve to be gentle on myself as I move through my process of growth and development? Bringing patience and presence to my journey of self-discovery sounds great!

So, in true Taoist fashion, I am practicing carrying my groceries in two (or more) mindful trips. Rather than holding my breath to ensure the stability of a carton of eggs perched on top of a precarious pile while leaning just far enough to the side to ensure that fourth bag doesn’t slip off of my shoulder, I will instead take the space and time to carry a manageable, comfortable amount. It might take 30 seconds longer, but isn’t it worth the grace and peace of mind? Instead of worrying about satisfying the competitiveness, the need to be right and the blind, unrealistic optimism of my inner perfectionist, I actually get to take my time and feel more relaxed.

Giving myself permission to practice carrying groceries in multiple trips has offered me opportunities to cultivate patience and ease, and treat myself more kindly through unfolding the facets of my very human psyche. In short, I am finally taking the advice that I have long been offering my clients. Personal perfectionism notwithstanding, I deserve to grow in my own space and time, just as I deserve to bring presence and peace to all aspects of my life, including carrying the groceries. Even a simple chore can be a wonderful teacher and opportunity for growth.